National GOP recruiting Mayra Flores, ousted from her South Texas seat, to run again for Congress

Former U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Los Indios, speaks at a rally in Brownsville on Nov. 1, 2022. (Michael Gonzalez For The Texas Tribune, Michael Gonzalez For The Texas Tribune)

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National Republicans are stepping up their efforts to persuade former U.S. Rep. Mayra Flores to run for her old seat in South Texas.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is recruiting Flores to make a comeback bid after U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, defeated her last year in Texas’ 34th Congressional District. The NRCC has named the seat a target for the 2024 election — its only in Texas — but Flores has not revealed yet whether she will try again.

The NRCC commissioned a poll in late May that found Flores tied with Gonzalez. A polling memo first shared with The Texas Tribune said Flores “has already proven she can win, and new polling shows she remains popular.” The memo touted the district as one of Republicans’ best pickup opportunities nationwide.

Flores said in a statement she is “praying about [a 2024 campaign] with my family, friends, and supporters, and will make a decision soon.”

“Conservatives in South Texas achieved historic gains in the 2022 election cycle, but there is still more work to do,” Flores said. “These poll results are very encouraging, and I deeply appreciate the NRCC's belief in our movement.”

Democrats dismissed Flores' chances in a 2024 bid.

"While the NRCC tries to convince Flores to run with dubious polling, the 2022 results speak for themselves," tweeted CJ Warnke, a spokesperson for House Majority PAC, adding that the 34th District "rejected [Flores'] extremism."

Flores flipped the seat in a June 2022 special election, a major breakthrough as the GOP was zeroing in on predominantly Hispanic South Texas. But redistricting made the seat more favorable to Democrats for the November election, and Gonzalez ousted Flores in a bitter battle.

Still, the NRCC sees Flores as uniquely capable of making the general election competitive. Although Flores lost to Gonzalez by 9 percentage points, she almost cut in half Donald Trump’s 2020 deficit in the redrawn district.

The poll found Flores is tied with Gonzalez in a hypothetical matchup, 42% to 42%, with 16% undecided. She leads 50% to 31% with independents. The polling memo showed Flores has a net positive favorability rating of 14 points. It did not include any information on Gonzalez’s image.

The GOP learned last cycle that South Texas can be difficult to poll. In the final weeks of the election, national GOP operatives expressed optimism about flipping as many as three seats in South Texas but captured only one.

Flores’ loss was perhaps the toughest for Republicans given her rising-star status after winning the special election months earlier. On the night of the November election, Flores lamented on Twitter that “the RED WAVE did not happen.”

Flores teased a comeback campaign shortly after her loss but has been quieter since about her plans. She has said she has enjoyed spending more time with family, and she has taken a few new jobs, including working for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Austin-based conservative think tank.

The 2024 Republican primary for the 34th District already includes Mauro Garza, a self-funding businessman who placed second in the 2022 primary for the neighboring 15th District. Garza has already run TV ads in the district and recently announced the endorsement of Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff and immigration hardliner.

Luis Cabrera, a Harlingen pastor who helped with Flores’ 2022 campaigns, has said he is preparing to run if she does not; he will support her if she does.

Carlos Cascos, the former Texas secretary of state and Cameron County judge, has been considering a run too. He said Wednesday he will decide after Labor Day.

The NRCC poll was conducted from May 24-26 by 1892, a national political consulting firm. The firm interviewed 439 likely general-election voters in the 34th District using a combination of live calls and text messages to cell phones. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 4.67 percentage points.

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